There is an estimated 48,000 people living in modern slavery in Libya (GSI 2018). Libya is a major transit destination for migrants and refugees hoping to reach Europe by sea. Human trafficking networks have prospered amid lawlessness, created by the warring militias that have been fighting for control of territories since the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. Highly organized trafficking and migrants smuggling networks that reach into Libya from Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and other sub-Saharan states subject migrants to forced labor and forced prostitution through fraudulent recruitment, confiscation of identity and travel documents, withholding or non-payment of wages, debt bondage, and verbal, physical, and sexual abuse. In some cases, migrants reportedly pay smuggling fees to reach Tripoli, but once they cross the Libyan border they are sometimes abandoned in southern cities or the desert where they are susceptible to severe forms of abuse and human trafficking.
Chidi was trafficked in Libya on his way to France. When his friend failed to pay the $3,000 fee to smugglers, he was locked up and tortured. Though his family took out loans to pay of his 'debt', he was later kidnapped and imprisoned once again. Chidi received support from Programme X including counselling, financial assistance and business skills training. He went on to set up a retail unit selling women’s accessories.
I took out a loan to start another business but it turned out to be a con. The loan had high interest rates and I lost the investment. After the loan, there was no way I would be able to survive. So I called my friend in France. He said he would help me with a French passport, but at a high cost. I sold my cars, I sold everything, but he was deceiving me.
I was sent to Abuja to meet this agent. I called my friend, he said I had to go through Libya to get to France. I was not like the others who had come prepared for the trip. I didn’t have any food. I spent six days in the desert. The agent said he had not been sent any money from my friend in France. They said that they would kill me unless I paid 1.5 million naira [£3,000] more. I could not get the money so I was locked up for four months.
They tortured me, they burned me on my arms and back, my body is damaged. Eventually I was able to raise 700,000 [naira]. My family had to take out loans to put it together and send it across. Then I was released.
I came across one Edo guy, and with his support I became a tiler, I was coping. But then the Asma boys kidnapped me. They took me to an underground prison, and they asked me to pay 1.2 million naira. In that prison either you pay or you die. I was locked up for about four months. We were fed only once a day – just a little bit of bread. Eventually they let me go because they thought I was going to die from an injury. They dumped me on the side of the road.
A Nigerian took me to the UN camp where they treated my injury and gave me money and food. I decided to try and go to Europe. I got on a boat with around 150 passengers. We got three hours away from Libya, there was a storm and the engine died. We spent 13 hours in the sea. We were collected by the Libyan police. Luckily, they came with UN staff. When I came back [to Nigeria], no one would believe [Programme X] would give me free support and I was discouraged by people to start. I am glad I did it. With the training I was able to understand how to run a business. I am self-employed and now I have freedom.
Narrative provided by ICAI